AEP Sustainability - Planning & Development

Workforce Planning & Development

Although our annual employee turnover rate remains steadily low at approximately 8.7%, we anticipate that about 4,500 employees will leave or retire from 2020 through 2024. Many of these employees are highly experienced and have significant institutional knowledge of the company, our operations and systems. When competition for top talent is fierce, we must be more deliberate and strategic in seeking individuals with the right mix of talent and experience.

We see this level of turnover across our workforce as an opportunity to identify our future talent needs within AEP. Our digital transformation requires our employees to have skillsets that merge analytics with traditional job functions. This need spans our entire business, from our facility maintenance staff and our line workers to our customer service teams. Sometimes, a new technology simply requires a quick update of existing equipment or skills. Other times, it requires a more thorough examination of the staffing capabilities needed to manage new equipment, new processes or new software. Developing employees with these new skillsets is critical to becoming a modern energy company.

Another challenge we must address is the shortage of skilled labor, such as line mechanics. In our Transmission and Distribution departments, we have two Line Mechanic Apprentice training programs registered with the Department of Labor. We grant journeyman status to all program graduates. In addition, eligible veterans may apply their GI Bill benefits while in the apprenticeship program. We currently have more than 800 apprentices, with more than 50 using their GI Bill benefits. If successful, this new training method can be effective in helping reduce this skilled labor shortage.

We also tap into our pool of retired employees to address labor shortages. For example, when we take a power plant offline, many employees leave prior to the plant’s closure to pursue other jobs or accept new positions within AEP. This often results in a temporary shortage of labor to operate the plant until its scheduled closure. At our coal plant in Conesville, Ohio, more than 10 retirees came back to work to help operate the facility until its scheduled closure in May 2020. This helped ensure the plant operated safely while keeping the lights on for our customers.

We are collaborating with the Business Roundtable (BRT), the Ohio BRT, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and universities and community colleges throughout our operating regions to meet our future business needs. Together we are working to implement educational programs to provide students, as well as current and future AEP employees, with the tools to transition into these new skillsets.

Amid this change, we must be proactive in creating a talent pool that meets our future business needs. At AEP, we are preparing our workforce for the future by providing opportunities to learn new skills and engaging higher education institutions to better prepare the next generation with the skills that we will need. We are also building a pipeline of future talent by investing in our Credits CountSM STEM education program. And we are investing in our talent recruiting efforts to become more effective at connecting our new, cutting-edge work roles with today’s top candidates.

AEP has training alliances with several community colleges, universities and vocational and technical schools across our 11-state service territory. We work with these institutions to develop academic programs that will prepare employees for upward mobility opportunities and to attract external job seekers interested in careers in our industry. Our education partners include The Ohio State University, Columbus State Community College, Mid-East Career & Technical Centers, Texas State Technical College, Prairie View A&M University, Morgan State University, Tennessee State University, Bridge Valley Community & Technical College and Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology, among many others.

In collaboration with AEP and several other businesses, educators and community leaders, Columbus State Community College launched the Office of Talent Strategy in late 2019. The new office is working to ensure a larger talent pipeline exists with the skills and training to fill in-demand jobs in areas such as data analytics, cybersecurity and cloud technologies. The Office will also utilize research and data to forecast workforce needs and facilitate policies that strengthen the talent pool of the future.

In 2019, AEP joined with the BRT, the Ohio BRT and Columbus State to submit an application to the Department of Education to take part in Columbus State’s federal work-study (FWS) program. Under this experimental program, AEP may hire eligible Columbus State students as interns for part-time Information Technology (IT) positions while they are attending school. These positions offer students the ability to use FWS funding to help pay for their educational expenses while obtaining valuable practical work experience in the field of information technology. Our participation in the Department of Education's FWS experimental site program will also provide AEP with access to a larger IT talent pipeline when these students finish school.

AEP also has robust co-op and internship programs across a variety of business units. For example, during the summer of 2019, we hired 41 college co-op students and interns and three high school interns at our transmission business. In Appalachian Power, we worked with The Education Alliance to bring three high school students to work as paid interns learning technical as well as professional skills.

In 2019, AEP teamed up with students from the South-Western Career Academy in Grove City, Ohio, to construct a new learning lab at an AEP training facility. The students, currently studying electrical trades, got firsthand field experience as they assisted AEP workers in tasks such as adding secondary voltage and underground conductors. Based on the success of this program, AEP will continue to explore new opportunities to engage students as they prepare for electrical trade careers.

Transformational change requires a more progressive and thoughtful approach in how we train, develop and retain our employees. Our goal is to prepare our company and workforce for the skillsets needed to align with our future strategy. AEP provides a broad range of training and assistance that supports lifelong learning and transition development. This is especially important as we move closer toward a digital future that requires a more flexible, innovative and diverse workforce.

We have robust processes to achieve this, including ongoing performance coaching; operational skills training; resources to support our commitment to environment, safety and health; job progression training; tuition assistance; and other forms of training that help employees improve their skills and become better leaders. In 2019, AEP employees completed approximately 1.1 million hours of training in programs for which we track participation and supported more than 1,000 employees with education reimbursement.

AEP provides development opportunities for employees at every level, whether through informal professional development opportunities or formal development programs. Several of AEP’s Employee Resource Groups and utility professional groups, such as Women’s International Network of Utility Professionals (WiNUP), sponsor programs and events that focus on employee education, career advancement and personal and professional development.